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Over the past few months, Rock Island Auction Company has seen a pleasing inflow of beautiful high end sporting guns that will appear in its December 2013 Premier Firearms Auction. There are elegant double rifles, beautiful drilling rifles, and many impressive safari grade rifles.
An exceptional, Peter Spode signed, gold inlaid, and dangerous game scene engraved Watson Brothers 4 bore sidelock ejector double rifle with case. The weight is a staggering 25 lbs. 4 oz.
When admiring these finely crafted firearms one by one an exciting trend began to emerge: these are big guns. The more guns I looked at, the more large bore weapons I discovered and not only were they made to fire large rounds, but they were absolutely alluring. I could yammer on all day about them, but I'm guessing you would prefer seeing a lot of pictures instead. So without further ado here is a selection of the large bore sporting rifles that will appear in RIAC's December 2013 Premier Auction.
This gun is a flat out stunner! It is a paradigm of color with its handsome chocolate brown Damascus barrels, gold inlays, and positively vibrant case coloring. Even the textures presented are as various as they are beautiful: the tiny eddies within the steel, the near liquid smooth finish, the contrasting distinct checkering, the minute English scroll engraving, matted rib, bright gold lettering, and the brindled stock.
The gun is much more than just style. It's an 8 bore paradox shotgun that weighs in at a hefty 16.8 pounds and is capable of firing shot or slugs from its rifled barrels. No doubt the weight was incorporated to eat some of this long gun's massive kick. One can scarcely imagine how massive the 8 bore slugs would have appeared. This is one heavyweight beauty most deserving of collectors' attention.
The previous firearm is a tough act to follow in terms of beauty, but the Fraser & Co. rifle does quite a respectable job. Its contrasting colors are visually compelling, from the crude oil black barrel to the coffee and creamer-like swirls of the wood. The silver color and serpentine lines of the receiver also are juxtaposed nicely with the darker oblong checkered grips to its aft. The engraving is superb, showing tight floral pattern scrolling that positively saturates the receiver, hinge pin, and break lever. Other garnishments of note are the pistol grip, cheek piece, horn gripcap, golden oval with inscription, and the leather case which includes 8 primed brass cases, 15 cast conical bullets, a brass single chamber ball mold, a cased set of three screwdrivers, and a two-piece cleaning rod.
This beauty is chambered in .577 Express, which means she packs one hell of a punch. The .577 Express is another heavy gun that would have been a pain to lug around the African Savanna, but in the event a wounded, adrenaline-fueled elephant or rhino was ripping through the vegetation to turn you into a red pulp on the dry African earth, a double dose of acute lead poisoning from this fantastic double rifle would be perfect for the task.
This ample firearm takes some of the previous two firearms and blends them together in yet another visually attractive piece capable of knocking down even the toughest game with the thickest hides. Like our first gun, the Rodda, it also is an 8 bore with casehardened parts. Similar to the Fraser, it uses contrasting blued components and engraving. In the picture below you'll notice that the engraving is very light and used mostly as a border, but it can also been seen on the locks and hammers. The gun features walnut wood, an ebony insert in the forend, silver initial oval, and a round knob pistol grip.
While this is not one of the "giant bores" sometimes used for safari hunting (like 4, 6, or even 2!), the 8 bore was considered the largest gun that a man could comfortably use and haul. Even well-known safari hunter, explorer, rifleman, and conservationist Frederick Selous would eventually give up using his beloved 4 bore muzzleloader stating that it was "upsetting my nerve." The classic game getter is accompanied by 12 round lead bullets, 3 conical, approximately 20 No. 8 gauge shells, and 5 No. 8 gauge rounds.
This double rifle, chambered in .458 Winchester Magnum, is the smallest of the calibers in this article, but don't read that as it being a small round. Unlike most of the rifles in this article, the .458 Win Mag could be used for longer distance shooting. This rifle, thanks to the terrain in which it was intended to be used, and the up-close-and-personal nature of safari hunting, was regulated for 60 meters. Some still claim that the cartridge is the most popular for hunting dangerous game. Its popularity was driven when it offered similar ballistics to the large, English double rifle rounds, but was available in a bolt action rifle, thus making both the rifle and the ammunition cheaper to manufacture and purchase.
As if there were any doubt as to the rifle's purpose, the engraving on the bottom leaves little to the imagination. Its tight scrolling with vine and foliage lines frame a running cape buffalo, a sight this gun is prepared to handle. This Austrian-made gun is only one of two in the United States. It is of "Best Gun" quality and uses many of only the finest quality materials in its manufacture. This working double features barrels formed from Bohler Special G 55 steel. This particular steel possesses a high chrome content and is of the very highest strength and quality. The wood has also experienced the utmost in care and quality and is a hand-oiled finish with a horn gripcap. Even the checkering on the pistol grip and the entire length of the forend is a unique style that at a distance almost evokes a plaid pattern. No detail was left overlooked in the creation of this luxury rifle.
This gun might look a little bit more like your father's prized hunting rifle than some of the others on this list, but it's not for knocking down whitetails. It is the iconic and recognizable Winchester Model 70, but a closer inspection reveals a special purpose: safari hunting.
Not only is it a Model 70 with shared characteristic of the Super Grade rifles, but its floorplate is engraved and gold inlaid and has a gold and silver highlighted image of a rhinoceros. Some of you may also be noticing the "BIG 5" and the silhouette of the African continent and thinking, "It's designed to take down the Big 5? What is that Model 70 chambered in?" For those that don't know, the Big 5 are the five most difficult animals to hunt on foot in Africa and any one of them is capable of killing you without so much as a second thought. They are:
African elephant: An animal that is smarter and more likely to charge than the others.
Rhinoceros: A lethal tank of a quadruped capable of easily lifting a Cap Buffalo with its deadly, solitary horn (this used to be specifically the black rhinoceros, but their critical endangerment now also allows for white rhinos to be taken).
Lion: The King of the Jungle. These unpredictable cats will often rather confront trespassers than flee. Their stealth, power, and fearsome reputation are all factors when hunting this beast.
Cape Buffalo: These massive bovines can reach up to two tons in size. Like the lion, they are unpredictable; a quality that has prevented them from being domesticated. A large bull's horns can span over a meter from tip to tip.
Leopard: Currently this beautifully spotted feline is the most difficult to hunt for two reasons: the licenses are laborious to obtain and the cats themselves are nocturnal and extremely wary. Hunting a leopard using stalking is essentially impossible.
But why is this rifle included among these other large bore firearms? Simple. It fires a .470 Capstick cartridge. The .470 Capstick was created in 1990 and named after safari hunter and writer Peter Hathaway Capstick. The round itself is essentially a .375 H&H Magnum that has been necked out to hold the larger .475 bullet. It is a cartridge 3.65" in length and is a near ballistic duplicate of the better known .470 Nitro Express. It is more than capable of handling big game.
While this 16 gauge shotgun is certainly not considered a larger caliber, this gun earns an honorable mention because it packs a punch in a different way - volume. This is a quad barreled shotgun made by noted London gunsmith Charles Lancaster. Four shots might not seem like much today with the tube magazines that are taken for granted, but four shots in a time where single and double barrel breech loading long guns were the norm was quite the improvement. This is a great example of gunsmith ingenuity trying to solve the mystery of a reliable repeating weapon. The shotgun would not be cocked by opening the breech, but instead by a double action internal hammer - a design he also used in his pistols. With each pull of the trigger, the striker would line itself accordingly, cock, and then strike each on the four fixed firing pins in sequence. All this in addition to its stunning cosmetics: light engravings, Damascus barrels, checkered walnut stock, case hardening, stately case, and a gold inlaid "Safe" indicator. This has all the rarity, innovative design, beauty, and firepower that a collector could want. An extremely similar (single action) example is currently housed in the NRA's National Firearms Museum, but one will find this gun in a far superior condition.
If you like what you see here, there is plenty more where that came from. These are just the "big bore beauties!" Whether you're looking for a rifle or a shotgun, Rock Island Auction Company's December 2013 Premiere Firearms Auction has numerous options from which to choose: high grade American and English-made doubles & shotguns, safari grade rifles, and rare, high condition field guns. All this in addition to all your collector favorites like Colts, Winchesters, Smith & Wessons, U.S. military, German military, antiques, militaria, bladed weapons, and historically significant pieces. Stay tuned! In the coming weeks we'll be showing all sorts of fascinating items that will be crossing the block here at RIAC.
Hugh Lowther, the fifth Earl of Lonsdale, squandered a massive fortune through his generosity and out-sized reputation as a womanizer, horseman
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